Biden, the Polls and Democratic Party Options
Will Biden's latest troubles force a candidate change?
By now you’ve likely seen the shocking results of the latest NY Times poll, summarized in the graphic below:
Biden is trailing in five of of the six states studied, in some significantly (down 11 points in Nevada?), and up by just two in Wisconsin, his only lead.
Calls to drop out
This and other news has mainstream Democrats freaking out, at least in front of big mics and typewriter ribbons:
What he needs to decide is whether [continuing to run for reelection] is wise,” David Axelrod said of Biden. … Axelrod posited those [NY Times poll] numbers as a reality check.
• Biden Faces Backlash From Party’s Left Wing on Israel (New York Times)
From Capitol Hill to Hollywood, in labor unions and liberal activist groups, and on college campuses and in high school cafeterias, a raw emotional divide over the conflict is convulsing liberal America. …
‘I feel very betrayed by Biden,’ said Angela Balya, 28, a protester in Manhattan who said she had volunteered for the Biden campaign in 2020. ‘I definitely will not be voting for him again.’
The Sunrise Movement, a coalition of young, progressive climate activists that mobilized on behalf of Mr. Biden’s campaign in 2020, is one such group that has called for a cease-fire. Some in the organization have been ‘raising questions’ about whether they and other young people will mobilize for Mr. Biden again, said Michele Weindling, the group’s political director.
• Joe Biden Faces Growing Calls to Drop Out of Race (Newsweek)
Forget the names on this list. Consider just the headline. Articles like these from venues like Newsweek would be unheard of two months ago.
Mainstream shots across the Biden bow
I also found the following piece in Politico revealing:
This article relates to the previously ignored Biden laptop story and subsequent congressional testimony under oath regarding meetings between Joe Biden and a top Burisma executive. The implication is that Hunter Biden was using his closeness to his father, the nation’s VP, to promote the son’s value to the company, and also that Joe Biden attended a dinner to demonstrate that closeness.
Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company and natural gas giant, from April 2014 to April 2019. For that, he received as much as $50,000 per month.
But that’s not the story. The almost universal media silence around the story is the story, or rather, Politico breaking that silence. Up until now, the Biden laptop story has been covered mostly by the Right, with the Left’s coverage confined to derision of Republicans and others who take the accusation of influence peddling seriously.
So why is Politico, the ultimate DC-insider publication, writing this sentence?
The explicit White House denial of even an informal encounter, reported here for the first time, was not the only time that statements made by Biden and his camp about Hunter Biden’s dealings have been contradicted by others.
One can only conclude that laptop story–sourced accusations against the president are suddenly fair game.
Does mainstream DC want Biden to fold his tent?
One could further conclude from all of these data points — the Axelrod call to dropout, the polling news, fallout from the growing Israel disaster, and venues like Politico now giving credence to Republican claims of corruption — that the part of mainstream DC that leans Democratic wants Biden to drop out.
I agree that this is what’s happening, though I’m waiting for an Obama signal or surrogate, just to be sure. David Axelrod might qualify as an Obama surrogate, but he’s also a journalist. Someone more directly connected would provide confirmation.
Can Biden drop out?
In that piece, Silver says (and I with him):
You’d need Biden to stand down, you’d need party leaders to send a clear message that they wanted an open nomination process and not just Harris by default, and you’d need to make sure that Whitmer and/or other candidates the establishment liked were actually interested in running and the choice didn’t feel force-fed to voters. Ideally you’d also want to do all of this without someone leaking to Politico or the Washington Post and upending the process.
“That’s probably too much to ask for,” he concludes.
Should Biden drop out?
This is a loaded question. It assumes that Biden is likely to lose, and therefore, to increase odds of a Democratic win, should step aside.
But is it really true that opening the race up this late improves the Democrats’ odds of success in November? Silver captures the problem pretty well:
[M]y head and gut have begun to diverge. Responsible Psephologist Nate says that it’s at least six months too late to have this conversation — that the most likely outcome of a serious primary challenge to Biden would be Biden winning the nomination anyway but being even worse for wear, or perhaps stepping down and endorsing Harris. You can’t call down to the bullpen and retrieve Gretchen Whitmer ready to throw 99-mph heat against Trump without voters asking what the hell happened to Harris or whether Whitmer is even in game shape.
But my gut — which I must reiterate, you should not trust — is with my friend in Miami. It’s saying this: Voters are telling us in every possible way that they’d really like someone other than these two guys to be on the ballot next year. And since this is a democracy, maybe somebody should listen?
My own thought is yes, Biden should drop out, even at this late date, and that this would improve his party’s chance of success.
Yes, a lot of black swans still hover over this race. There’s the candidates’ health to consider, Trump’s possible imprisonment, the brutal public response to the Gaza war, the fate of the economy, and more. Any of these could play out to fatal effect.
But these facts are clear:
Biden is more unpopular now than any president who managed to get reelected.
Harris is weaker, more vulnerable than her boss. Here, for example, are her November 2019 Quinnipiac poll results. Harris support had collapsed to 3% overall, 5% among black voters. On December 3, she ended her campaign. Harris is plagued by other issues as well.
The nation is deeply troubled, has been since 2008, when Obama, the anointed “change candidate,” won handily. Biden was the change candidate in 2020. Trump is that candidate in 2024, and the nation is no less unhappy.
None of this makes a Democratic win impossible. But given all this, the odds seem pretty low, at least at the moment.
That doesn’t mean Biden will drop out of the race. I think he’ll fight to stay in. Party establishment hubris is near its peak, and the septua- and octogenarians are well entrenched. It just means that he should drop out, if Trump is truly the evil he’s pictured as being.
Bonus – Biden, the Blob and Israel
Something else to consider. Here’s Biden’s approval ratings from RCP:
Note the point where his disapproval crossed on top — August 2021. This was the month the Establishment turned universally against him for withdrawing from Afghanistan. Now imagine the Blob’s reaction if he turned against Israel.